In the 2000s, I helped curate the desi blogverse as part of a filter-blog called DesiPundit. This was way before Facebook force-fed us timeline propaganda and Twitter created the phenomenon of rage-typing both via algorithms. Back when, we relied on each other with networks the old-fashioned way and recommendations the old-fashioned way too.
How did one find new, interesting stuff online? By being unnaturally curious. By searching for obscure things, some that weren’t even in one’s fields of interest but still ‘just to see’ what came up. It was the information superhighway after all and for the explorers, no trail was a dead-end.
By the late 2000s, RSS feeds were even on my techno-challenged radar and I started using a feedreader to track updates of the 300-odd sites I followed, in addition to nosing around for new stuff. Bloglines was my first enduring curation relationship since it let me categorise into folders. Towards the end of the decade, they closed and posted a recommendation for another service called Feedly. I went through the instructions on migration via something called OPML import/export.
In the process, I cleared away blogs that had died out. A lot of the blogs I was really invested in, were personal blogs and I had formed relationships with the people who wrote them. Some moved off the blog, into email conversations, then chats. I was still anonymous then so these conversations carried a funny/guarded/excited tone that a lot of people remember even now. A few made it to the real world. And around this time, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest had shown up.
The 2010s spelt a content explosion, across media, platforms, creators and consumers. I’ve kept up as best I could, finding myself pressured to do so by what became a career choice as well the FOMO of living this life.
I’ve been questioning this life of late. The toxicity of Twitter has long bothered me. Performance spaces amplify that same culture with misogyny, queerphobia, islamophobia and linguistic terrorism. The savagery of paparazzi/media on the SSR case has really brought things to a head for me. I look around this vast universe collectively called CONTENT and I wonder what I’m doing in it. It doesn’t inspire me, it doesn’t welcome me. It feels poisonous, dangerous, unsavoury and cheap.
A couple of years ago, I began moving away from the poison. I gave myself permission to ignore certain topics, no matter how pressing or timeline relevant they were. I learnt to identify my triggers and how to manage them. I walked away from poisonous groups, still nursing lingering wounds but surviving. And I began putting a distance between myself and dangerous behaviours/conversations in places I couldn’t exit. Like posting to Twitter via another platform so I wouldn’t get sucked into a filthy timeline for every thought. Muting or even Blocking anyone who was nasty (aggression has become a clear dealbreaker for me). Unfollowing anybody whose presence made me feel uncomfortable, no matter what.
It hasn’t all been about cutting back. It’s also been about looking elsewhere. I went to podcasts and to Reddit, a place that’s been around as long as I’ve been a blogger but which I never visited. It’s that slightly smoky pub in my city I’ve always steered clear of, being the good girl. But when the new joints fall, it’s time to explore the old. It is turning out to be a lot of fun. Armed with an understanding of what to avoid and how to do so, the Reddit journey for me is proving to be fresh and fun.
My mind has felt a little clearer since then. But just about. Just as what we put into our bodies directly impacts our physical well-being, what we put into our minds impacts our mental health. This is a constant race against other people’s agenda to push through filters, blocks and boundaries. The only answer if I have to exist in this world, is constant vigilance and curation. More and more, I’m realising the importance of curating what I consume.
As part of the content feed filtration, I’d started a new feedreader for blogs & frequently updated sites. I started using a basic app, feeling cleansed by its minimal design, even finding solace in the labour of having to type in each link manually. It let me pare back my feedreader list to less than 10% of the original.
Today, I returned to my feedreader. Because of its basic design, it doesn’t even have a web interface, meaning my use is down to a few minutes each night, reading in the darkness before I fall asleep. I looked for options that would let me read more healthily and also share. And in doing so, I retrieved my original feedreader list. It was like rummaging in the attic.
There was a folder titled PERSONAL that was full of blogs of friends. One of them died in 2012. Two others ghosted me after they moved to greener pastures. One of them wiped his entire digital footprint clean and resurfaced as a completely different person – I don’t think he wants anyone to remember who he used to be. And there are yet others whose lives have gone in very different directions, some who won’t acknowledge me were we to meet today and others I wouldn’t want to run into. All these links were dead and they didn’t get transferred into the new service (thanks to a nice little feature). I am really glad for this. I wouldn’t have been able to let go of them on my own. But I am better off without the memories, even in the form of dead links.
I feel lighter and more hopeful than I did yesterday, which is a sign of how much the environment (including the mental environment provided by content) impacts your well-being. There have to be others like me, driven by curiosity rather than malice, seeking fresh ideas and not just toxic bonds. There has to be a place for someone like me in the content verse too. I return to the realisation that we are what we read/watch/listen to and consume. As long as that’s full of hope and freshness, I’m liking who I am.